1. Between spring and autumn 2013, which of these countries received the largest upgrade to its 2013 GDP growth forecast from the IMF?
b. United States
c. United Kingdom
ANSWER - United Kingdom. In April, the IMF forecast the UK would grow by 0.7 per cent in 2013. By October, the IMF had raised this forecast to 1.4 per cent, the largest upgrade to any advanced economy's forecast. Over this period, many emerging markets saw their growth forecasts cut, including a reduction of 1.9 percentage points for India. The IMF cut its forecast for US growth from 1.9 per cent in April to 1.6 per cent in October. Nonetheless, if realised, this growth rate would still mean the US outperformed most major EU countries in 2013.
2. Which luxury asset class saw the biggest increase in value between 2003 and 2013?
a. Classic cars
d. Fine wine
ANSWER - Classic cars. According to The Economist's Valuables Index, classic cars' values rose by almost 550 per cent between 2003 and 2013. Fine wine and violins each rose by about 290 per cent over the period, while art fared least well, rising in value by 145 per cent. In comparison, the MSCI World, a rich-world stock market index, delivered a total return of 147 per cent between 2003 and 2013.
3. In May 2013, the Pew Research Center asked residents of eight European nations about their perceptions of their European neighbours. Which nation was seen as being most trustworthy?
ANSWER - Germany. According to the Pew Research Center's annual survey of popular opinion, people in seven of the eight European countries surveyed – the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic – viewed Germany as being the most trustworthy nation. The exceptions were the Greeks, who saw themselves as the most trustworthy and the Germans as the least trustworthy nation.
4. Which Eurozone country will have the healthiest underlying government budget balance in 2013, according to the IMF?
ANSWER - Greece. Greece and the Netherlands are the only euro area countries which the IMF forecasts will run structural budget surpluses as a share of GDP in 2013 (the structural budget is a measure of the underlying government budget balance, removing the effects of the economic cycle). In 2009, Greece had a deficit equivalent to a staggering -19.1 per cent of GDP on this measure. The IMF forecasts it will have a surplus of 0.6 per cent of GDP in 2013. This improvement has come at a cost, and Greece entered its sixth year of recession in 2013. The IMF data also highlight the fiscal challenges facing the US and UK: both countries are forecast to post structural budget deficits equivalent to about 4 per cent of GDP in 2013, far higher than the average for the euro area.
5. Which of these innovations features on MIT’s list of Ten Breakthrough Technologies of 2013?
a. Drone aircraft
c. 3D printing
ANSWER - 3D printing. Every year the MIT Technology Review selects ten emerging technologies it believes will change the world. The selection for 2013 includes 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing). The Review describes how General Electric, the world's largest manufacturer, is on the verge of using 3D printing to mass-produce its jet engine parts. A look at previous lists shows that new technologies often take time to make their mark. In 2001, MIT advocated the potential of biometrics and "natural language interfaces" in consumer technology, both of which have only relatively recently appeared on smartphones.
6. Who are the world’s happiest people, according to the UN’s 2013 World Happiness Report?
a. The Danes
b. The Australians
c. The Swiss
ANSWER - The Danes. The happiest people in the world apparently reside in northern Europe, according to a 156-nation survey published by the United Nations, which ranks countries on a range of factors including life expectancy, freedom to make life choices and social support. The 2013 report ranks Denmark first in happiness, while Togo is ranked at the bottom of the table. The UK is ranked 22nd.
7. Which asset class rose more than 70 per cent in value in 2013?
b. Greek government bonds
c. Global junk bonds
d. The Japanese yen
ANSWER - Greek government bonds. 2013 saw a sharp rise in the value of many "risk assets", as economic conditions improved and investors sought higher returns. Global "junk" bonds rose 13 per cent and Greek government bonds rose 74 per cent. "Defensive" assets such as gold (-27 per cent) and the Japanese yen (-18 per cent) declined.
8. In a blind test conducted by Which? Magazine, Aldi’s mince pies were the top scorers at 78 per cent, well above lowest-rated Fortnum and Mason’s at 54 per cent. A box of six Fortnum & Mason mince pies costs £12.95. How many Aldi mince pies could you buy for the same money?
ANSWER - 46. Prices do not always reflect value. Which? said that Aldi mince pies have a "lush and juicy filling and they looked good". By contrast, the pastry on the Fortnum's pies was described as "flat-tasting, soft and crumbly – not what you expect when you're spending £2.16 per pie". Which? Best Buy Aldi's mice pies cost only 28p each.
9. In which of the following countries do employees work the most hours each year?
d. United States
ANSWER - Greece. Workers in rich countries tend to work fewer hours each year than workers in poorer countries. The average Greeks worker puts in 2,034 hours per year, the longest in Europe. Only Mexicans work longer among the 34 countries surveyed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Germans work 1,393 hours a year, 28 per cent fewer than the Greeks. The Japanese (1,745 hours a year) and Americans (1,789 hours) work broadly similar hours. The OECD found the Dutch, at 1,381 hours per year, worked the fewest hours of the 34 countries.
10. In 2002, Andrew Oswald of Warwick University and David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College published a paper that estimated the monetary value of a lasting marriage. Keeping all other factors constant, they computed the amount of money people who are widowed or separated would need to be paid, on average every year, to make them as happy as those who are married. What do you think that amount is?
ANSWER - £60,000. Economists Oswald and Blanchflower surveyed 100,000 people, randomly sampled across the UK and US, to measure their well-being and happiness. They discovered that a lasting marriage brings an average person as much happiness as having an extra £60,000 added to their annual income. The economists also estimated that losing a job causes as much unhappiness as losing £40,000.
11. According to the UN, averaging across the world’s population, life expectancy at birth was 47 years in 1950. Where does it stand now?
ANSWER - 69. Life expectancy at birth has risen by 47 per cent since the 1950s due to economic growth and improvements in living standards. These changes have also resulted in a near tripling of the world's population from 2.5bn in 1950 to more than 7bn now. By the end of this century, the UN predicts life expectancy will rise from the current 69 to 82 years.
12. Which of these countries does the IMF expect to be the fastest growing in the world in 2013?
a. South Sudan
ANSWER - South Sudan. The IMF estimates South Sudan is the world's fastest growing economy in 2013, with GDP expanding by 25 per cent. The country's main revenue earner is oil and output dropped by 55 per cent in 2012. The current boom in activity has been driven by a rebound in oil production and the post-independence rebuilding of the economy (South Sudan achieved independence in 2011 after a period of conflict with the Central Sudanese government ,which started in the mid-1950s). China is likely to be the world's seventh fastest growing nation and the fastest growing major economy, with 7.6 per cent GDP growth in 2013. The IMF forecasts that the Greek economy will contract by 4.2 per cent in 2013, making it the world's weakest economy.
13. Analysis by Forbes Magazine shows that, between 1901 and 1931, Germany won 38 Nobel Prizes – more than any other country and two-and-a-half times the number of US wins. Between 1950 and 1980, the US won 117 Nobel Prizes. How many did Germany win over this period?
ANSWER - 16. Economic and political stability and the ability to attract the world's best talent are vital in the struggle for academic excellence. Between 1901 and 1931, Germany was a research superpower. After the Second World War, Germany fell behind and the US took over. The US has produced the most Nobel laureates, winning 347 prizes so far. Britain comes a distant second, with 120 wins and Germany comes third with 104.
14. Match the quote to the individual: (a) Bernie Madoff, (b) Lord Mervyn King, and (c) David Cameron.
1. "The world economy [is] more stable than for a generation … Our hugely sophisticated financial markets match funds with ideas better than ever before."
ANSWER - Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted saying this in a speech at the London School of Economics, just as the financial crisis was starting.
2. "It is quite possible that at some point we may get an odd quarter or two of negative growth, but recession is not the central projection at all."
ANSWER - The former governor of the Bank of England, Lord Mervyn King, made this prediction just as the financial crisis was taking hold. The UK went on to suffer the deepest recession since the Second World War.
3. "In today's regulatory environment, it is virtually impossible to violate rules."
ANSWER - Bernie Madoff was quoted as saying this in 2007 a year before being jailed for 150 years for orchestrating a $50bn Ponzi scheme.
a. +28 per cent
ANSWER - Bill Gates ($56bn to $72bn). Bill Gates has seen his net worth grow 29 per cent in the previous two years. This is largely due to the 43 per cent jump in Microsoft's share price since the beginning of this year.
b. -21 per cent
Silvio Berlusconi & family ($7.8bn to $6.2bn). Silvio Berlusconi has seen his net worth hit by personal scandals that have cast a shadow over his business dealings. His wealth was also affected by the general weakening of the Italian economy where his media and financial service interests are largely based.
c. +41 per cent
ANSWER - Mark Zuckerberg ($13.5bn to $19bn). Mark Zuckerberg has seen his net worth grow by 41 per cent. This has been mainly due to the recovery in the share price of Facebook, which has risen 80 per cent this year.
Ian Stewart is chief economist at Deloitte.